It's hard to believe this is my first blog post and I've already been at the Great Lakes Commission (GLC) for almost five months! I spent my summer getting to know my coworkers and familiarizing myself with the policies, agencies, and institutional structures that make up Great Lakes governance.
My transition from pure science to the science/policy interface has been eased by the science-based focus of my projects, and I have been pleasantly surprised to find the social science and policy aspects of my work just as interesting and engaging. For example, one of my primary responsibilities is to co-lead a project to plan and conduct a regional symposium on the management of non-native Phragmites australis. This invasive reed is taking over coastal and inland wetlands across the region, destroying native habitats and impacting human use of water resources by restricting access and impeding views. To address this issue, the GLC is working with Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources and Environment staff to bring together interested stakeholders in order to forge relationships and to develop a strategic framework for management on a statewide level. This symposium will be held in Lansing in March 2011, and I'm looking forward to seeing this project through from beginning to end. Since I devoted my graduate work to understanding the ecological impacts of invasive species in the Great Lakes, I have enjoyed the opportunity to see how this type of science is applied to complex decision-making processes.
I've also been heavily involved in the GLC's facilitation of the Great Lakes Wind Collaborative, a multi-sector coalition of stakeholders working towards the sustainable development of wind power in the Great Lakes region. One of my main projects is planning a State of the Science meeting on the ecological impacts of wind energy in the Great Lakes. Last week, I was in Lakewood, Colorado at the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative's 2010 Wind Wildlife Research Meeting. This year was the first time there was an offshore wind session at the meeting, and I really enjoyed learning about the unique ecological, scientific, social, policy and regulatory issues surrounding offshore wind development. With the lease for the first offshore wind farm in the US being signed by the Secretary of the Interior just a few weeks ago, it is a very exciting time to be working on offshore wind issues!
This is just a small samplling of the work I've been fortunate to be involved with at the GLC over the first part of my fellowship. My time here so far has been educational and exciting, and I have really enjoyed the opportunity to network with the Great Lakes community beyond the realm of academia. I am beginning to realize how important relationship-building, cooperation, and communication are to responsible governance of natural resources, and I am looking forward to delving even deeper into these issues in the latter half of my fellowship. - Julie, GLC Fellow 2010